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INDIE SPOTLIGHT #016 – THE BOSTON METAPHYSICAL SOCIETY

By Robin Jones

Indie Spotlight Header
Welcome back to the Inter-Comics Indie Spotlight, this column aims to make you, the readers, aware of cool indie/crowd funded comic book creators and projects!

Following the trend of having writer/artist duos, this time around we have the writer and artist of the steampunk, paranormal comic The Boston Metaphysical Society, Madeleine Holly-Rosing and Emily Hu. Recently nominated for a Geekie Award, the series follows Hunter and O’Sullivan, paranormal investigators for the BMS, a group created by some of the Victorian era’s greatest minds to investigate the strange, ghostly and ghastly goings on in Boston, Mass. This series is a must read for fans of the X-Files!

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Me: Where did the inspiration for the Boston Metaphysical Society come from?

Madeleine: It was a combination of my love of history and the scifi, supernatural and fantasy genres. I didn’t realize that by combining them I would get steampunk. J

Me: How fun is it to take established historical characters such as Tesla, Edison and Houdini, and drop them into this world of paranormal investigation and time and space monsters?

Madeleine: It’s been a lot of fun. Obviously since this is fiction none of the characters are probably anywhere close to who they were in real life, but I do try to keep their relationships thematically accurate. Like the fact that Tesla and Edison were in constant conflict and that Edison tried to steal some of Granville’s patents. In case you didn’t know, Granville Woods existed during that same time period and knew Bell and Edison. (He was an engineer whose most famous invention was the Synchronous Multiplex Railway Telegraph.) It’s a blast to be able to see how these characters react in the world I’ve created.

Emily: I love it! It’s always fun to have actual historical characters to reference off of, as well as look into their actual lives, and then see how Madeleine has worked them seamlessly into this world.

Me: What sets BMS apart from other supernatural ensemble comics like BRDP?

Madeleine: Quite a bit, actually. First BMS is not a government organization. It’s just Samuel, Granville and Caitlin. And though Caitlin has some supernatural abilities, no else does. Samuel lives by his wits and instincts while Granville is a man of science though not the “hide in the lab” kind of guy. They see “The Shifter” as a threat to Boston and not the world as a whole…at least not yet. There is a reason “The Shifter” is in Boston which will not be revealed until the 6th issue.

Emily: I’ll be honest- I have not read BRDP. However I have read The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which is another supernatural ensemble comic and I love both very much. For BMS I think one of the most interesting things is that the main character has nothing to lose–he has already lost. So we are following his journey to redemption, which may or may not be morally sound.

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Me: If you could sell BMS in a single sentence, what would you say?

Madeleine: The story is about an ex-Pinkerton detective and his spirit photographer partner who battle supernatural forces in late 1800’s Boston.

Me: Which artists/writers have most influenced you in bringing BMS to life?

Madeleine: I have been a big reader all my life, but I came to comics late. My brother was a big superhero fan so I thought that’s all there was growing up. It wasn’t until I started adapting BMS from the TV pilot I wrote while at UCLA MFA Program in Screenwriting that I discovered that there was so much more out there. Which means my main influences were SciFi novel writers such as Lois McMaster Bujold, John Scalzi, C.J. Cherryh, Anne McCaffrey, Arthur C. Clarke, etc. and not comic book writers.

Emily: Eduardo Risso has always been a huge influence on me in everything artistically. I always look to his books for guidance and inspiration. Other such artists are Tomer Hanuka and Josh Middleton.

Me: Do you have time to still read comics? If so, which comics regularly appear on your pull list?

Madeleine: Yes. I review comics for Fanboy Comics (and the occasional novel). I usually review indies, but I’ve been having fun reviewing the TERMINATOR SALVATION: THE FINAL BATTLE series. I love to read so I try get some pages in before I go to bed every night.

Emily: I do! But far less than I used to in regards to American comics, because I was a huge fan of DC pre-new 52. Right now the only comic I regularly read is All New Ghost Rider by Felipe Smith and Tradd Moore.

Me: What can we expect from your future issues of BMS? Are you planning to further expand the story past the initial 6 issue run?

Madeleine: I hope to. I have a short comic series mapped out that focuses on Granville and another on Caitlin. But due to the financial burden of producing a comic, I’ll be writing BMS novels first.

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Me: You have a kickstarter running at the moment for Issue 5, what’s been the draw and greatest aspect of using crowd funding like kickstarter?

Madeleine: Running a Kickstarter is a time sucker and since it’s only me running it I barely have time to eat let alone do any writing. It’s very hard unless you are a famous person so you have to try and prepare as much as possible before you launch to make it a little easier on yourself. But even then you can make mistakes and it doesn’t work out. This is the third Kickstarter I’ve run. The first failed, but I learned a lot from it. The second one was fully funded in under 48 hours, but this one has been tough. I have a feeling that I launched it at a bad time of year, i.e. end of summer. So we’ll see how it goes. I’m still hopeful though.

Me: What’s your favorite aspect of making comics?

Madeleine: Writing them then seeing Emily making my vision come to life. She’s awesome.

Emily: I love setting pacing, especially in big impact moment scenes, when the reader is about to find out something shocking. It’s very rewarding to finally get to the “pay off” of the page, so to speak.

Me: Hypothetical question now… Mulder and Scully are tasked with tracking down “the Stalker”, would they beat Hunter and O’Sullivan to the punch?

Madeleine: I would think so. They would have better technology at their disposal and probably better investigative skills just because of the advances made in criminology.

The kickstarter finishes on September 12th and you can donate to it here. You can check out all the previous issues and entries to the series at the BMS website here. you can also follow Madeleine on twitter here. Finally, Madeleine is appearing at the following conventions: Rose City (Portland) (Sept. 20-21), Long Beach Comic and Horror Con( Sept. 27 and 28), APE (Oct. 4 and 5) and the San Diego Comic Fest (Oct. 17-19)

Until next time

Rob Jones is an honourary Yorkie, but for the life of him, he can’t understand why. He writes articles, is attempting to write comics and his life ambition is to own a solid gold Donkey… For more comic news, reviews and the odd bit of sense, follow Robin on twitter @Hulksmash1985

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Posted on September 11th, 2014
Category: INDIE SPOTLIGHT, PREVIEWS & UPCOMING RELEASES
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INDIE SPOTLIGHT #015 – TART

By Robin Jones

Indie Spotlight Header
Welcome back to the Inter-Comics Indie Spotlight, this column aims to make you, the readers, aware of cool indie/crowd funded comic book creators and projects!

We have another double whammy of creators for you this time, with Kevin Joseph and Ludovic Salle co-creators of Tart. Within the lusciously drawn pages of Tart we meet Tart Acid and the world she inhabits, the world of The Toxic Fruit. From investigating the disappearance of a boy in 1950s New York, visiting a demon dimension and arriving at the coldest moment in the history of our planet, Tart is a time twisting adventure for fans of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and quirky, kick ass women led comics everywhere!

Initially starting off life as a webcomic, Tart has been successfully crowd funded through Kickstarter and is now available in trade paperback format.

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Me: Where did the idea/inspiration for Tart come from?

Kevin: From our Co Creator Ludovic Salle’. I’ll let him go into it more specifically as he was playing around with the Toxic Universe long before we were introduced. I simply dove into his toybox and played with the toys I understood best.

Ludo: Tart comes from the universe that I created for my first series Hell Strawberry. Hell Strawberry is inspired by a multitude of references. From comic books to the cinema and television. The list would be too long because it is only a brewing ideas that swirl in my brain. But the most important for me is the Time Travel.

Me: As indie creators, how have you found getting Tart out there to potential readers? Do you guys have any advice for other upcoming creators?

Kevin: It’s absolutely the toughest part of the endeavor. Without a marketing budget (well, without any budget), without industry connections and without a name, what do you have? For us, we have a book we believe in passionately. So we try to turn every stone we can in building a readership.

I’ve found the most success getting the word out on Twitter. And this is where I have to mention a guy well known to Inter-Comics, Jay B. Webb. He was gracious enough to agree to read Tart before almost any other reviewer out there. Through his positive response we’ve been able to get our story in front of many podcasters, reviewers and/or other creators. So I see it all branching out from Jay being nice enough to open our pdf.

There really is an amazing group of indie comic lovers (writers, artists and readers) on twitter. Get into the conversation. They’ll lift you up like you’d never believe possible.

We also try to do as many appearances as we possibly can just to get the cover of the book into people’s minds. Small cons, local comic shops, Gallery shows (ok, this one’s Ludo only). If it’s affordable and we can make it, we go. As far as advice for these shows – don’t go in with the goal of making money. Go in with the goal of meeting comic enthusiasts and letting them know your book exists. You’re playing the long game here. Readers are what you need. If you set out to make money, you’ll quit before you reach the midpoint of the journey, much less the end.

Ludo: We make several conventions each year, allowing us to show our creations to a wider audience, which would not come to us. So it’s always a nice surprise and wonderful when we see the enthusiasm of new readers. But social networks do a big part of the work. Twitter and Facebook can target more widely. But there is nothing better than meeting people and talking with them, face to face.

Me: What sets Tart apart from other female led, demon/hell spawn comics like Buffyor JMS’s recent Apocalypse Al?

Kevin: Well I can answer the Apocalypse Al part of the question with an unequivocal, “I have no idea?” I am completely ignorant of that book. But Buffy… I’ve never shied from the fact that Buffy is, was and always will be a major influence on me as a writer. Whedon and his writing team crafted a show that made me laugh, worry, cry and exalt in The Scooby Gang’s adventures. If we can create any such an experience for Tart readers, I’ll consider the book an enormous success.

What sets us apart? Well I think a major theme of Buffy was being forced to accept the fact that you’ve been chosen for a life you didn’t want. Good, bad or hellish, Tart chose to be doing the job she’s doing.

Ludo I do not know Apocalypse Al, either. Regarding Buffy, I will not lie, it’s one of my biggest reference for this project. But I want to say that there is no marketing ploy from me to choose a female hero. It has always been obvious. I always did female characters. I’m always surprised that we still have to explain when a main character is a woman. We rarely ask a writer why his/her hero is a man, but it’s still a debate for a woman.

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Me: If you could sell Tart in one sentence, what would you say?

Kevin: The time-traveling, demon-hunting girl next door.

Me: Who has most influenced yourselves in your work and how?

Kevin: I’ve already mention Joss Whedon, so I’ll reiterate that and throw in Neil Gaiman. Both of these writers are masters at leading the audience into an expectation and then turning the story onto its side. I love stories that surprise me and nobody does that better than the pair of Whedon and Gaiman.

Ludo: Like I said, many references. But like Kevin, Gaiman and Whedon are my favorites. Not only because they are great writers, but mainly because their sci-fi and fantasy universes are often an excuse to develop great characters. With the touch of magic that I like.

As an artist, I am influenced by a lot of painters and illustrators. I like Art Nouveau (Mucha, Klimt), fairy tale illustrations (Gustave Doré, Arthur Rackham). But also the contemporary artwork, the design. I like the works of James Jean (the covers of Fables), he has a perfect proficiency to mix traditional drawings and graphic elements. The art of J.H.Williams III on Batwoman is incredible, too. I try to work in this way.

Me: Do you guys still get time to read comics and if so, which titles are regular appearances on your pull lists?

Kevin: Little by little, I’ve run out of time. I still try, but I’ve honestly fallen off the wagon a bit. I’ve tended to start using my comic budget to support indie kickstarters lately. It’s still $25 to $75 a month on comics, but it makes me feel good in lots of ways. 1) There are some real gems out there. 2) I’m helping a creator put out a book that they probably couldn’t get out there any other way. And 3) With two books Kickstarted, it makes me feel a ton less hypocritical backing other projects I believe in.

Ludo: I try. I read some books of Marvel and DC but I’m lost with all the references that I don’t get. I keep to read Fables, Buffy, Hellboy.

I started Invincible, Empowered, Wizard of Oz.

Me: You’ve mentioned crowd funding as a way and means of getting Tart out there, what was the best aspect of that?

Kevin: Absolutely, positively the relationships it’s created. The goal of Kickstarter is raising money, and then producing and delivering your product. That’s great, don’t get me wrong. But it’s not the best part.

I never, ever assumed I’d make friends out of the process. We had backers raise their pledge at the last second just so we could pass a numeric milestone (even though it didn’t affect us being funded or a stretch goal). Backers from our first project apologize because they were funding us at a lower level in the second campaign. Think of that for a second. They’re giving US money to fund OUR dream, and THEY’RE apologizing for it.

The Kickstarter community as a whole is an amazingly supportive, friendly, fun and engaging group.

Me: What can readers expect in the future for Tart, as you say you have 3 – 4 years worth of story ready for her!?!

Kevin I can hear Ludo’s breath quicken an entire ocean away. Our skeleton of the series runs approximately 40 issues. But with Ludo supplying every bit of art, at the same time that he’s paying the bills with freelance graphic design, we doubt we’ll get those forty issues finished in 3-4 years.

But whenever we finish, our goal is to create a series that engages and surprises our readers throughout our run. When Tart’s story is done, we hope our readers are left with a satisfying and defined ending. We also hope they’ll be able to go back through and reread it finding more in the series than they might have on the first go around.

We won’t know that we’ve accomplished that for a good while, but it’s definitely the goal.

Ludo: Unfortunately, I can not project myself too far in the future, I do not know how fast I could work on the next issues of Tart.

The French way of work is about 48 pages a year (knowing that the artist is both the artist, inker, colorist, and sometimes letterer). I try to do better and provide more but it’s hard.

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Me: What’s your favourite aspect of making comics?

Kevin: I’d normally mention the friendships I’ve made doing it, but I’ve already touched on that with the Kickstarter question. So instead I’ll say that right now, comics are the best way to get your work out and into the audience’s hands. I have two screenplays that I worked my tail off on sitting on my hard drive. I know people with novels written, that they can’t get anyone to read.

Comics on the other hand. You can photocopy and hand out a comic for free. You can self-publish a webcomic. You can print 20 or 30 copies through a digital printer and try your hand at selling them at Cons or LCS’s. You can Kickstart a large run of beautiful books. Or you can submit to the big boys and hope the right editor grabs your book.

The options aren’t limitless, but having your work experienced by an audience is easier in comics than in most any other media.

Ludo: That can be really hard, and headlock, and exhausting. But at the end, it’s always satisfying. I can’t live without making comics. It’s in my veins.

Me: Hypothetical now… Tart vs Buffy in a bounty hunting situation… Who’d get the demon first?

Kevin: Oh, God. You can’t do this. You’re asking me to pit my creation against one of my favourite characters ever created. Unfair. UNFAIR!

I can’t do it man. Everything I type seems unfair to one character or the other. I’ll say this. Mano e mano Buffy would beat the tar out of Tart. But Tart would persevere and figure out a way to survive. Buffy’s a fighter. Tart Acid is a survivor.

Ludo: Hmm… I guess Tart has to kill Buffy. Sorry. There can be only one. Oh sorry, It’s Highlander, right?

You can get Tart from Comixology here, check out Kevin and Ludo’s website here and like Tart on Facebook here. Kevin and Ludo are on twitter, so stalk and follow Kevin right here and Ludo here.

Until next time.

Rob Jones is an honourary Yorkie, but for the life of him, he can’t understand why. He writes articles, is attempting to write comics and his life ambition is to own a solid gold Donkey… For more comic news, reviews and the odd bit of sense, follow Robin on twitter @Hulksmash1985

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Posted on September 1st, 2014
Category: INDIE SPOTLIGHT, REVIEWS
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INDIE SPOTLIGHT #008 – STRONGHOLD!

By Robin Jones

Indie Spotlight Header
Welcome back to the Inter-Comics Indie Spotlight, this column aims to make you, the readers, aware of cool indie/crowd funded comic book creators and projects!

This time around we are speaking to the creative team behind Stronghold, a new, independent comic from creators Kevin Roberts and Brian Visaggio. It’s a science fiction action-adventure story rooted in the “super-sentai” genre, which you might familiar with from shows such as Power Rangers, Masked Rider, Voltron and Gatchaman/G-Force. Kevin and Brian also take strong influences from manga and anime like Dragon Ball,  western comics like Kingdom Come and Sandman, and shows like Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek Deep Space 9 to combine these elements to craft something familiar for science fiction fans In concept but fresh and truly unique in its execution.

I spoke with Brian and Kevin about Stonghold:

Me: Where did the inspiration and idea come from for Stronghold?

KR: I had wanted to do something Super-Sentai (re: Power Rangers/Kamen Rider/etc) inspired for years, I was always drawing up character designs that didn’t have a real story behind them, but I developed them all the same. Then Brian approached me about doing a book like that. A darker, grimmer version of Power Rangers, a show that we liked but we know is still kids’ stuff. So this basically started as our love letter, our homage to that genre of kids shows we grew up on. We wanted something with teams transforming into chitinous armor and piloting giant mecha, while giving it enough of a spin to make it our own, to make it distinct.

BV: Power Rangers. It’s sort of that simple. Kevin and I, along with our friend Martin Krause who helped us to develop the plot the book initially, discovered we all shared a sustained, mutual love for Power Rangers, but knew damn well how poorly the show held up. I initially discussed the idea with Martin, and as Kevin and I had been trying to work out a project to do together, I approached him about the art. I said “Let’s do Power Rangers for grown-ups.” He said “I’ve been waiting for this moment my entire life,” or something to that effect.

We really wanted to do a mature story about kung-fu space superheroes who fight aliens, and I daresay we’ve successfully done that.

Me: Which artists and writers have most heavily influenced you both in your work on Stronghold, and in the style and tone of the comic?

KR: I do have a bit of comic background from my adolescent days. Whenever I went with my dad to the pharmacy or the convenience store he’d buy me some comic books (which were only $1.25-1.50) to take home. I was big into Archie Comics’ Sonic The Hedgehog and TMNT series, and I’d grab any X-Men and Amazing Spider-Man I could get my hands on. I was too young to realize how bad the clone saga was (haha) but I loved 90s Spider-Man however I could get my hands on it. But around the time the PlayStation came out (1995 in NA) I stopped reading a lot of comics, I’d pick up a few here and there but I didn’t get into them seriously until college. Most of my influences were from tv and video games. Genndy Tartokovski’s Dexter’s Laboratory and Samurai Jack remain near and dear to my heart. Akira Toriyama; Dragon Ball Z (there weren’t any American cartoons with that level of action.  It blew me away at the tender age of 11), Ronin Warriors, Voltron reruns, Gundam Wing, Big O, Katsuhiro Otomo: Akira, Hayao Miyazaki; Princess Mononoke, Ninja Scroll. I was smack in the middle of the mid-90s early-2000s anime boom and I was taking in as much as I could. I mean who hasn’t been affected by Cowboy Bebop (Shinichiro Watanabe)? Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear Solid came out when I was 13 and changed my life forever. I mean that series is a part of my identity. Yoji Shinkawa’s art has been a big influence on me, respectively. Japanese cartoons and video games shaped my tweens and teens in a big way, and anythiing Bruce Timm had his fingers in, as far as American cartoons went; Batman, Justice League, etc. There’s one manga I’ve been faithful to since I was 18 and that’s Takehiko Inoue’s Vagabond. If you don’t know it, you need it in your life. Inoue’s draftsmanship simultaneously inspires me and depresses me to no end, and it’s a great story about Miyamoto Musashi.

BV: It’s always a fight to figure out who my influences are. I keep wanting to bring some Gaiman in there but it’s never tonally appropriate. I’d say my biggest influences are Mark Waid, Alan Moore, yeah probably Gaiman, Brian Azzarrello, and Brian S. Wood. Wood’s DMZ has been a huge influence, and I’ve always tried to emulate Mark Waid’s remarkable sense of tragedy.

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Me: Do you still read/have time to read comics and if so, which comics do you like reading?

KR: Not a whole lot to be honest. Gaming’s my primary hobby and I barely have time for that between working part time and drawing Stronghold. I make time when a game really gets its hooks in but I spend less time gaming or reading comics these days than say, in college. Going to the gym has actually helped; I read comics and graphic novels while doing the treadmill portion of my work out. I’m catching up on Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. Incredible stuff. I do make a point of it though so I don’t stagnate. It’s good to look at other’s work and study what they did and why they did it. Composition, panel layouts, and I’m currently also doing the lettering so I try to study that too. So comics for me are like 40% hobby and 60% research.

BV: My monthly books right now are Starlight, Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel, She-Hulk, Amazing Spider-Man, and Wonder Woman. I keep wanting to get back into X-Men but I haven’t read it regularly for over a decade now. When I was a kid, I mostly read Uncanny X-Men, Amazing Spider-Man, and Tom DeFalco’s Spider-Girl, which I dearly, dearly love, although I sometimes wonder if I learned all the wrong lessons from DeFalco.

I spend a lot of time in trades. I love classic 1930′s and 40′s Superman. It may not be evident from my reading choices but I’m sort of obsessed with Superman; I’ve just never been interested in the main continuity. Red Son, Superman for All Season, Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow, Kingdom Come, All-Star Superman…these are books I come back to again and again and again.

Sandman, Powers, DMZ, Scott Pilgrim (which is truly, truly remarkable). Lots of stuff. Less than I’d like.

Me: Can you describe Stronghold in a single sentence?

KR: Power Rangers, Battlestar Galactica, and Dragonball Z had a baby and we don’t know who the father is.

BV: People making horrible choices in a terrible situation are surprisingly unsuspicious when a space alien offers to give them superpowers so they can overthrow the government.

Me: What can readers expect to see in the future for Stronghold with issue 4 & 5?

KR: More plot, more character development, some new characters, even, awesome fight choreography, grim but hopeful science fiction that doesn’t abuse the color brown.

BV: Issue 4 and 5 are going to be wrapping up the story’s act 1, dealing with the fallout from the events of The Chains parts 1-3. It’s going to launch the book into the second act where the bulk of the story will be spent. Bodies will be buried. Villains will be introduced. And we get to see what’s outside the cities.

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Me: You’ve currently got a kickstarter going for Stonghold, what is the best part of using crowd funding for your projects?

KR: If we get funded I’ll let you know (hahaha) but I guess it’s forced me to network more than have been. Or at least attempt to. And it’s nice seeing people I don’t know giving us some attention, taking a chance on us.

BV: Not going broke funding things yourself. I make pretty much no money, and my wife and I work hard to keep ourselves afloat. We could never do this without help.

Me:  Do the pair of you have any plans for future comics/stories together?

KR: We have more ideas that we have time or hands to commit them to paper or computer, honestly. I wish I had a clone who just did all the things I didn’t have time for, but had all my skills and interests.

BV: We have a few different projects on the backburner waiting for Stronghold to end, all of which we’re really excited about. One of them may be the best thing I’ve ever written.

Me: What’s your favourite part about creating comics?

KR: I love to draw, I always have. Comics require a lot of drawing. It’s labor intensive, but as long as you’re not lazy, you can see yourself improving with each book you make. And after I’m done I get a real sense of accomplishment from what I’ve finished. There’s a profound sense of growth and learning that is almost inevitable in making comics.

BV: I honestly don’t know how to answer that. There’s really never been a time in my life where they hasn’t been the impulse to make comics. Never ever. So it’s like asking what your favorite part of breathing is; it’s completely natural and I never really give it a thought as to what about it appeals to me or what part of it I like. It’s just something that I do.

Me: Hypothetical question now, if the character’s of Stronghold came up against the characters from Super Sentai?

KR:Stronghold. No contest. But then they’d team up and become BFFs.

BV: They’d lose due to being vastly, vastly outnumbered.


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What you have there is a comprehensive reason to back Stonghold! Brian and Kevin are fantastic gents and fully deserve your support! You can check out the Stonghold website here, donate to their kickstarter fund here, (Which I strongly suggest you do!) also if Twitter is your thing and you wish to stalk the pair of them, then hit Brian up here and Kevin here! Kevin also has his own tumblr, which showcases his art, which can be accessed here!

See you all next time.

Rob Jones is an honourary Yorkie, but for the life of him, he can’t understand why. He writes articles, is attempting to write comics and his life ambition is to own a solid gold Donkey… For more comic news, reviews and the odd bit of sense, follow Robin on twitter @Hulksmash1985

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Posted on May 10th, 2014
Category: INDIE SPOTLIGHT, PREVIEWS & UPCOMING RELEASES, REVIEWS
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INDIE SPOTLIGHT #006 – VANGUARD BY DAN BUTCHER

By Robin Jones

Indie Spotlight Header
Written by Dan Butcher
Art by Dan Butcher

Welcome back to the Inter-Comics Indie Spotlight, this column aims to make you, the readers, aware of cool indie/crowd funded comic book creators and projects!

We have an awesome, pulse pounding, British action/adventure webcomic for you this time around in the shape of Vanguard from writer/artist Dan Butcher! The Vanguard team are a group of meta-humans, working for the British Government in covert ops around the globe, the art is punchy, gritty and realistic and the story is engaging and full of depth! This is for fans of superhero team ups, like JLA, the Avengers or the Unity team! I was lucky enough to speak to Dan about his work!

Me: What was the inspiration behind Vanguard? Where did the idea come from?

Dan: The idea for Vanguard came to me when I was working on something completely different. I found as I worked up a back story to that tale, it became apparent that it wasn’t something I wanted to skip over, but actually explore further.

Me: Vanguard is a classic superhero/meta human team up, did you want to add your own twists to this flavour by having them as a military response team rather than an independent group?

Dan: Well, I wanted the Vanguard to be endorsed by and work for the Government. That being the case, in reality they’d operate with and alongside the Military. You’d have several departments handling their publicity, media image, and their deployment in the field. In the comic, these roles are filled by several characters (McPhaidon, John Hatcher, General Phelps). In regards to the chosen candidates for ‘super powers’, if the Government were going to pick out half a dozen people to give these abilities to, I’d imagine they’d pick people from Law Enforcement/Military or someone with a proven record of following orders. I’ve done my best to research elements within the story, to the point where I was asked if I’d ever served in the Military. Nope, just read a lot of books, watched documentaries… and 80’s action films. Littered through the first two issues are numerous references to ‘Predator’. See if you can spot them all.

Vanguard Billboard Banner
Me: Which comics do you read yourself and which creators have had the most influence on your work?

Dan: Comics I read at the moment? I have a standing order for just one, which is ‘Invincible’, by Robert Kirkman, Corey Walker and Ryan Ottley. The writing on this comic is excellent. Constantly moving forward, always changing with twists and turns every issue. As much as I love the classic superheroes, Batman, Spider-Man, etc., the idea that they never change/grow bugged me more as I grew older and my tastes changed. In regards to the art, Ryan’s work is amazing. Detailed, explosive and dynamic. His style has influenced me greatly, these past few years. I’m sure some of his influence can be seen in my work.

Comics that have influenced me? I’ll mention some of the ones that had particular influence on me as a younger reader: Marshall Law, Judge Dredd/2000AD, Dragon’s Claws and Action Force/G.I.Joe. These titles either focus on a team of characters or are set in a dystopian future, similar to Vanguard.

Certainly a lot of the elements/ideas within Vanguard have their roots within some of the aforementioned titles. Public Spirit from Marshall Law, for instance. He’s the World’s number one superhero, who behind closed doors, is a drug fuelled ego-manic and murder. He certainly went some way to inspire MaXtreme in Vanguard.

Me: If you could describe Vanguard using one sentence, what would you say?

Dan: That, is a hard one. Maybe – ‘In a bleak, dystopian future, a team of disparate government endorsed superheroes battle to foil a Machiavellian scheme bent on Global domination’?

Page Jumble
Me: So, why a webcomic?

Dan: It was/is the best medium to tell the story. The comic is free to read and anyone with a web connection can get at it. Webcomics are a bit of a double edged sword. Anyone can make one, but with no quality control, anything can and does get posted up. Fortunately, I receive great editorial input from Gary Cohen, a chap I met on Twitter, who writes the excellent Mallville Rules. He has tempered and harnessed the content and storytelling, making the overall read feel ‘tighter’ and more focused.

Me: Do you have any other projects lined up for the future?

Dan: I have several. It’s getting harder and harder to not to add another project to what I’m already doing. I often over work myself and burn out. I’ve tried to limit the amount of projects I commit to because of it. That said, I often provide artwork to webcomics and/or creators that I like/admire.

Me: Has the idea of crowd funding a printed edition of Vanguard ever crossed your mind? I understand Vol 1 is available to buy?

Dan: Yep, the trade paperback of Vanguard, which includes issues one-five can be bought online HERE

I’ve not considered doing a crowd funding edition. One of my problems is that I’m a creative, not a business man. I’m more at home punching out the artwork than selling it. A situation that I need to address, because the bills can’t be paid otherwise!

Me: Hypopthetical now, if the Vanguard team had to take on the Unity team from Valliant Comics, who would win?

Dan: Ha ha! I can’t say I’m not familiar with the Unity team. Readers will be able to tell that the Vanguard can pack a punch, but put them up against heavy hitters like the JLA or the Avengers and they’d struggle!

comictemplate3a
So, to read Dan’s Vanguard web series, just follow this link and it’ll take you to the start of the series! You can follow Dan’s exploits on twitter right here and there’s also a facebook page here for all your Vanguard needs!

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Posted on April 26th, 2014
Category: INDIE SPOTLIGHT, PREVIEWS & UPCOMING RELEASES
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INDIE SPOTLIGHT #005 – SPLIT BY JOHN RODRIGUEZ & MIRA MORTAL!

By Robin Jones

Indie Spotlight Header
Welcome back to the Inter-Comics Indie Spotlight, this column aims to make you, the readers, aware of cool indie/crowd funded comic book creators and projects!

Stepping up to the plate this time around, we have a Graphic Novella, Split from John Rodriguez or JAR and Mira Mortal. What Mira and JAR do is evoke  a dark, tense, psychological story which sends a shiver along your spine and leaves a dark mark against your soul. A horrifying story of tragedy and coping, Split is currently up on Kickstarter and needs your backing! We were lucky enough to speak to JAR and Mira about Split.

Split Cover
Me: Where did the idea and the inspiration for Split come from?

JAR: I can speak of what inspired me for the art. When Mira and I where first talking about what kind of story we wanted to work on, my first reaction was “dark.” I had just finished an 8 page comic for a Catholic publication at the time and wanted something very different to work on. I tried to make the art a bit claustrophobic, like the weight of the world is getting to the mother.

Mira: The story itself is a couple of years old, so I’m removed a bit from the exact moment of inspiration, but I can still talk about the general thinking behind it. I worked under an assumption that we are a product of our own situations, but how our lives progress beyond that depends on our ability to deny, accept, change, or transcend these situations–and failing all of these, there’s the point where everything becomes too much. SPLIT supposes that not all the horrible things that people do in reaction to their situations are motivated by being bad or evil. It’s kind of become this popular thing to recognize that nobody sees themselves as the villain in their own story, and SPLIT is an extension of that. I wish I could speak more specifically about the book, but it isn’t out yet!

Me:  Does the book carry a message? There’s a clear Mental Health awareness vibe running through it, was that something you wanted to raise awareness of?

JAR: I didn’t have a message, but I felt a big responsibility to make sure that I delivered the story to the reader as best I could. I want the reader to feel sympathy for the characters and then conflicted toward the end. If it brings more awareness to mental health issues, even better.

Mira:  Messages are a funny thing. Readers might find a message that wasn’t intended, or miss the one that was supposed to be there, so I don’t write to preach or to convey messages, necessarily, but to serve a story. Hopefully. That being said, I do think mental illness is a serious issue. It carries a social stigma that is difficult to overcome, and the mental health community could always use more resources to give aid and raise awareness.

Split Page 19.1
Me: Can you describe Split in a single sentence?

Mira: ”How much can a heart break before the mind decides to follow?” We used this line in our trailer, but although it’s a question, I think it sums up what this story answers for the characters.

JAR: Normal people breaking under the consequences of good intentions.

Me: Which artists have most influenced the art, style and tone of the book?

JAR:  I’ve always liked the heavy blacks and high-contrast approach of Mike Mignola, and the sketchy look that Sam Keith uses. I used a combination of these approaches with SPLIT. I’m also a huge fan of work by Ben Templesmith and Menton3.

Mira: For writing it, I suppose my long history with the work of Stephen King and David Lynch made me feel okay going to a pretty dark place.

Me: Which comics do you read yourself?

JAR: Currently I’m reading Abe Sapien, Superior Spider-Man, a few X-men titles, and Jupiter’s Legacy. I’ve also always been a Green Lantern fan.

Mira: I’m all over the map, but I’m rather loyal to Top Cow: Think Tank, Artifacts, Aphrodite IX, Wanted, a bit of Witchblade. Older favorites like Sin City, a lot of Alan Moore’s work, Transmetropolitan. Loved Locke & Key. Wormwood. Chew, The Walking Dead (though I’m far from caught up), The Wake, Kevin Mellon’s work. And there’s really good dark material like Abattoir, Bedlam, Killing Pickman, and Wolves of Summer. On the flip side, I read the Adventure Time comic pretty regularly. I’m fairly obsessed with that property because it strikes exactly the right balance of weird, creative, and hilarious. I’m going to stop, because I could go on for awhile.

Split Page 19.2
Me: You have a kickstarter running for Split, what do you feel is the best element of Crowd Funding a project like this?

JAR:  I think that, especially a book like this, would be a hard sell for a publisher. Crowd-sourcing gives creators like us a chance to make books we love, and not feel like we have to tone something down, or change the ending to appeal to a larger audience. Drawing for me is a labor of love and, whether it’s printed or just available digitally, it makes me happy to have the opportunity to tell stories to an audience who wants to read them. No matter how small the audience is.

Mira: This one would probably be a hard publishing sell based on the format alone. I love the idea that we can produce something specifically for those that are interested in it, and that it doesn’t necessarily require a publisher to get a book printed. It does, in fact, take a village to make a comic. ;)

Me: What projects do you have lined up for the future, could we expect the story laid down in Split to be expanded upon, or maybe some more background revealed in the future?

Mira: I see SPLIT as done, but we have talked about putting some extras in the book like backstory notes and some early sketches if the book gets funded.

JAR: I also see SPLIT as a completed book. We have quite a bit of stories that are currently in their infancy stage. I’m currently working on a mini-series with Action Lab comics which will hopefully be completed by the end of 2014. Then Mira and I plan to be full steam on a new project.

Split Page 7
You can check out the Split kickstarter page right HERE and check JAR and Mira out on Twitter by clicking on their names. If you want to check out more of their work, then head to Mira’s website HERE and JAR’s website HERE. The kickstarter for Split runs until May 3rd, so plenty of time to make some pledges!

See you all next time.

For more comic views and reviews follow Robin on Twitter at @Hulksmash1985

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Posted on April 16th, 2014
Category: INDIE SPOTLIGHT, PREVIEWS & UPCOMING RELEASES, REVIEWS
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INDIE SPOTLIGHT #004 – ROB TURNER, CREATOR & WRITER OF REYNARD CITY!

By Robin Jones

Indie Spotlight Header
Welcome back to the Inter-Comics Indie Spotlight, this column aims to make you, the readers, aware of cool indie/crowd funded comic book creators and projects!

We’re bringing back an awesome, Saturday morning cartoon style comic creator this time around, as we talk to Rob Turner, creator and writer of the webcomic Reynard City, an action packed, tongue in cheek romp with kickass foxes taking on robots, evil generals and such! They’re just gearing up to get Issue #24 to their Kickstarter people (plus also working on a bonus extra exclusive for them to make up for the delay!) This new Kickstarter is set to cover the next three issues, with the  big plan being to get our artists down for Norcon in September and give them the A list treatment they deserve! On top of this they’ll have a number of new rewards including you in foxy superhero style if you back them!

So, without further delay, let’s get chatting!

Reynard City
Me: Reynard City is billed as a Saturday morning cartoon comic. Can explain what that means.

Rob:  I was lucky growing up in the 90′s, we had a mix of great superhero cartoons (Batman, X-Men, Spiderman etc) as well as anthro cartoons (ranging from Ninja Turtles to the much underrated Swat Kats). As a kid I used to love getting up early and eating my breakfast on a tray while watching the shows. What we try to do is take that excitement and put it into our online comic.

Me: What made you settle on the idea of kick ass foxes?

Rob: I think it goes back to Disney’s Robin Hood and Tails, I liked the idea of the fox being a hero as opposed to a manipulator or a sidekick. Plus being from a rural area there was a part of me that liked the idea of them being the survivors in a tough environment.

Hyper Rob From Reynard City by MrHades
Me: If you had to describe Reynard City in one sentence, what would you say?

Rob: ”Sonic meets X-Men via Yellow Submarine”

Me: What were the comics that influenced you as you were growing up?

Rob:  Asterix was the first comic I remember regularly getting. I’ve always been drawn to the quirkiness of French culture and Asterix is probably one of the best examples (Dr Antibiotix was named as a tribute to the comic). Over time as I got older I got more into comics themselves mostly as a result of watching cartoons (Batman and X-Men probably being the main two).

Me: You have a creative team working with you on the art, what’s their influences and processes in terms of illustrating?

Rob: We are lucky to have an excellent creative team who bring their influences to the party. Susie Gander is a big Tomb Raider fan and she brings that dynamic energy to her work, Nicholas Webb is more anime influenced. Judging from Dan Butcher’s Vanguard he’s very much inherited the cynical satire you get in 2000AD and Alan Moore. We also have a new artist on board from Norwich called FlipKick who has proved to be very dedicated and is learning very fast!

In terms of process the different artists have their own way of working. Some do it bit by bit while others like to complete a page in one go. Ultimately I believe in giving them as much freedom as I can (within the framework of the story they have been given)

Me: Where can people get hold of Reynard City?

Rob:  Issues can be downloaded from www.reynardcity.com We are currently working with design company Visualise on overhauling the website and we intend to make it easier for people to order the issues from the site. We also sell issues at conventions. If anyone wants to order any issues in print form feel free to contact us!

Me: Do you have any new crowd funding projects in the pipeline?

Rob: We are very grateful to everyone who donated to the Issue 24 Kickstarter (kickstarter.com/projects/1562835050/reynard-city-issue-24). Our next Kickstarter project will be to cover the next three issues. Our aim is to get issues out once every two months, something that is not always easy to do. We are also looking for sponsors (ideal if you have a comic that you want to promote! More info www.reynardcity.com/advertise)

99 Luft Vixens
Me: What’s next for your intrepid team of foxy foxes?

Rob: The next thing is Issue #24! I can’t reveal too much but the issue is called The Rise of Balloon Boy and kicks off the second major arc of the comic. We’re building up to a grand finish, one that is really going to hit home!

Me: Hypothetical question now, who would win in a fight: Ak Girl, Wondervixen and Hyper Rob or the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?

Rob: This is a tough one- The Ninja Turtles all have fantastic skills and would put up an excellent fight. I like to think Vibes would pull off a few mind tricks and they’d make peace over some pizza!

So, you can check out and download the story here, follow Rob and his foxy exploits on twitter here, plus check out this awesome fan made song in a tribute to the story here!

See you all next time!

For more comic views and reviews follow Robin on Twitter at @Hulksmash1985

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Posted on April 10th, 2014
Category: INDIE SPOTLIGHT, NEWS & VIEWS, PREVIEWS & UPCOMING RELEASES, REVIEWS
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INDIE SPOTLIGHT #003 – DOC UNKNOWN

By Robin Jones

Indie Spotlight Header
Welcome back to the Inter-Comics Indie Spotlight, this column aims to make you, the readers, aware of cool indie/crowd funded comic book creators and projects!

This time around, we bring you the newest lord of the strange, master of the weird and Doctor of…something…. Doc Unknown! It’s a pulpy, supernatural action/adventure series about a man chosen by fate to battle the forces of evil during World War II. It’s for fans of Batman: The Animated Series, Hellboy, and Planetary. I’ll be speaking to writer Fabian Rangel Jr. Artist duties are provided by Ryan Cody. If you like art Mignola-esque then this is the tale for you!

Me: Where did the inspiration/idea for Doc Unknown come from?

Fabian: I wanted to do one last comic before giving up on them, and so the basic idea was to do a one that combined everything I love about comics into one series. So I needed a central character that would be the vehicle for showing all of this strange stuff (monsters, ghosts, mobsters, magic, ninjas, vampires etc) and I figured it could take place during WW2. I wanted it to have a Batman:The Animated Series vibe, but with a heavier focus on supernatural stuff. “Doc Unknown” to me, was a name that illustrated that to readers without them even having to read a panel haha

Me: I feel a BRPD vibe to the comic, is that something you’re going for or do you have something different up your sleeve?

Fabian: Oh, yeah, totally. The Mignolaverse is a huge influence. But like I said, I wanted it to feel more like BTAS, or something you would see in Planetary. It’s different for different readers. Some people have compared it to Iron Fist or Indiana Jones, there’s also some Nevermen in there, some Astro City. Lots of influences.

Doc Unknown image 1
Me: Which comics do you read and which creators have most influenced your work?

Fabian: I read creator owned books from Dark Horse (Mignolaverse, The Goon,) and Image (Five Ghosts, Manhattan Projects, Saga) and a few other pubs. But yeah, all creator-owned. As far as creators, I’m influenced by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, Eric Powell, Warren Ellis, Alan Moore, RobertKirkman and BKV.

Me: You seem to be consistently reaching stretch goals, what’s your reaction to all the support you’re receiving for Doc Unknown?

Fabian: It’s flattering, and honestly, a little unbelievable. I’m lucky to have as many supporters and friends as I do. I think we (artist Ryan Cody and I) hit our goal and beyond because we’ve shown ourselves to be a creative team who delivers. I’m beyond happy that we are able to do this comic on our own thanks to ComiXology and Kickstarter.

Me: Doc Unknown is also appearing in Five Ghosts from Image Comics, how did that come about?

Fabian: I had been reading the book and really digging it, I met Frank and we talked about how FG and Doc were in the same frequency, so we just talked about it and it happened. We figured each other’s fans would dig both books. Just seemed like a no-brainer.

Me: Which artists have most heavily influenced the style, tone and feel of the book?

Fabian: You’d have to ask Ryan Cody about that, but on my end I can say I picked Ryan for this project because his art reminded me of Oeming, DarwynCooke and Mignola rolled into one, but with his own spin. I even see some Kirby.

Doc Unknown image 2
Me: What projects do you have lined up for the future? Can we expect more Doc Unknown stories will we be seeing something different from yourself?

Fabian: Right now the plan is to do a Volume 3 of Doc Unknown, and end it with that. I have some new stories I’m itching to do, I know Ryan and I will be working on one or two of them. I’m going to have some short comics in some upcoming titles, but that stuff hasn’t been announced yet. I will for sure be doing a KS for Volume 3 in the Fall, and plan on doing another Kickstarter for one of the new ideas about a year from now. Planning ahead!

Me: What’s the best aspect about crowd funding your title?

Fabian: Reaching an audience I wouldn’t normally be able to get on my own. And of course, not having to go into debt to make the comics I want to make.

Me: Hypothetical question now, who would win in a poker game, John Constantine or Doc Unknown?

Fabian: Constantine. He knows magic and shit.

Doc Unknown image 3
Doc Unknown has until April 9th and is already $3000 past it’s goal, so get in there and help it reach some awesome stretch goals! You can follow Fabian on twitter: @FabianRangelJr and Ryan on twitter: @ryancody and Fabian will be at ECCC next week, table P-01! Don’t forget to check out the the link to Doc Volume 2 on Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2005492660/doc-unknown-winter-of-the-damned-and-others-graphi?ref=live

See you all next time!

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Posted on March 25th, 2014
Category: INDIE SPOTLIGHT, PREVIEWS & UPCOMING RELEASES
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INDIE SPOTLIGHT #002 – BORN DARK

By Robin Jones

Indie Spotlight Header
Welcome to another Indie Spotlight, this column aims to make you, the readers, aware of cool indie/crowd funded comic book creators and projects! This time around we are looking at Born Dark, written by Lela Gwenn and illustrated by Richard Clark, edited by Eisner Award winner Adam P Knave and lettered by Frank Cvetkovic! We’ll be chatting to writer Lela Gwenn!

Born Dark is a dark fantasy comic book with a edge of horror. It focuses mostly on Bulvis– a goblin who made and lost his fortune betting on his ability to manipulate an 11 year old Malcolm. That was twenty years ago and the loss has grown exponentially over the years. But now he has a new target, a young boy named Jake. Jake is lost. Shelved in a foster home that sees him as a cash crop. But he’s made friends with a funny little guy in the mirror. Maybe the mirror guy can help him find his sister?

Born Dark - Jake
Me: Where did the inspiration from Born Dark come from? I get a very Labyrinth feel to the artwork!

Lela: It is sort of a darker, angrier Labyrinth. Less tight pants and singing, more blood. Portal fantasies were the starting point for me… from there it just kind of took off. The starting place is all the great portal fantasies. I just asked, “What if everything went wrong?”

Me: What kind of comics do/did you read and which creators have most heavily influenced your work?

Lela: Everything. I started reading the old horror comics which definitely shaped the way I think about story but so much of what I read does. I couldn’t pin down one particular comic that influenced me, but a lifetime of reading has made me what I am.

Me: Which artists inspired the look of Bulvis or have you delved into mythological creatures such as Bogles, goblins etc to get the right look/feel?

Lela: Richard & I came at the inspiration for the look of the Goblins from different points of view. We tried a couple different looks before we found Bulvis, but as soon as I saw him I knew it was perfect.

Me: What kind of tone should we expect from your work?

Lela: Dark.. But not ceaselessly so. I’m not into stories that just drudge on in endless misery, so you’ll get your chance to chuckle and cheer too.

Born Dark - Bulvis
Me: What’s the best aspect, to you, about crowd funding your work? Wasn’t it a risky thing to undertake?

Lela: For me, it was really the only way to get my work out there. It’s also amazing because I can honestly say “x number of people will buy my comic.” Which is amazing! There is always a risk when it comes to putting your work out there, no matter how you do it. I am very fortunate to have a great community around me that supports each other.

Me: What projects do you have lined up next? Can we expect more from the world of Born Dark?

Lela: I have a sekrit project that I can’t talk about! But I can’t talk about it. So. *zips lip*. I’m working on a Cyberpunk script, also a novel. For Born Dark… we are hoping to find a publisher that will love the story as much as we do and will give the other 6 issues a home. If that happens, EVERYONE will know. :D I’ll be singing from the rooftops (it will be no more on-key than my rendition of Every Woman In The World)

Me: If you had to sell Born dark with one sentence, what would it be?

Lela: Never trust a Goblin.

Me: Where can people get hold of Born Dark?

Lela: Right now the Kickstarter is the only way!

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/lelagwenn/born-dark-issue-0

Hopefully soon it’ll be in ALL THE PLACES! :D

Born Dark
So Born Dark is fully funded but still has until March 27th for you to help it reach it’s stretch goals! Head to the Kickstarter Page here, follow Lela on Twitter here: @LGwenn, artist Richard Clark @Zipyrich  and letterer Frank Cvetkovich @GoFrankGo . You can check out Lela’s Facebook page here.

See you all next time.

For more comic views and reviews follow Robin on Twitter at @Hulksmash1985

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Posted on March 23rd, 2014
Category: INDIE SPOTLIGHT, PREVIEWS & UPCOMING RELEASES
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INDIE SPOTLIGHT #001 – MERRICK THE SENSATIONAL ELEPHANT MAN!

By Rob Jones

Merrick
Every now and again, we hear about some awesome comics getting made through Kickstarter campaigns. I’ve reviewed some cool kickstarter funded comics before for my Papercuts and Inkstains column, but I wanted a series to just be able to spotlight these kickstarter funded comics. Therefore the aim of this new series of posts is to help upcoming indie artists give you, the comic buying public, the chance to hear about their projects and get involved in helping them reach their goals!

So, how should we start this series off? Well, where better than with the awesomely mental Merrick – The Comic, a zany, Mike Mignola influenced tale through the streets of Victorian Britain, following the exploits of that well known superhero, Joseph Merrick aka THE ELEPHANT MAN! From the minds of Tom Ward and Luke Parker, it is a horror tinged, mystery thriller delving us deep into the world of Carnival grotesques and freakshows!

Anyway, enough rambling from me, let’s let the guys speak for themselves!

Merrick image 1
Me: Before we start, where did the inspiration for Merrick – The Comic come from? Were you influenced by titles like Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter & Pride and Prejudice and Zombies?

Tom: I’d had the idea for The Elephantman sat in my head for a few years before either of those came out and probably stems more from my love of crazy conspiracies or secret histories than the genre mashup. I did pick up the Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter book just before the movie came out though and absolutely loved it (the film not so much), I think if you enjoyed it then you’ll probably be on board for Merrick.

The original inspiration really came from classic superheroes, it struck me that there was Spiderman, Batman, Antman, Hawkman, Animalman etc. And then there was this real guy called the Elephantman but no one had touched on it before. Was his skin really as thick as an elephant’s? Then I started reading up on Joseph Merrick and his story was fascinating; the more I read, the more interesting stuff I came across. The setting and characters were perfect for a comic if you overlooked a few key points such as his lameness from a hip injury and his difficulty communicating. Joseph would go out in public wearing a mask to hide his identity, just like the classic super heroes, that got me to thinking what if the disabilities displayed to the world as the Elephantman were actually part of a secret identity? That he was hiding in plain sight? What if his condition actually gave him the impervious skin of an elephant and enhanced strength, and he portrayed these disabilities to prevent his actions being traced back to him. I then learned that on 3 occasions Merrick left the London hospital to go on holiday and was taken by a private train, what if these weren’t holidays? What if they were adventures?

When I was reading up on Frederick Treves I discovered he was best friends with Thomas Hardy, an English writer who had a fascination with the occult and was a member of the same gentleman’s club as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who was a believer in spiritualism and a Freemason. So what if these three men were part of a secret society dabbling in the occult who could make use of a man with Merrick’s extraordinary abilities? And then it struck me as strange that Treves referred to Merrick as ‘John’ rather than ‘Joseph’ when writing about him, he must have know it was wrong? Or was he lying about Merrick’s real name for some reason? Why would he do that?

That’s really when the whole thing came together, I figured that would be something I’d want to read myself.

Me: What comics inspired you both as you were growing up?

Tom: Growing up I was a huge Tintin and Asterix fan and used to read the Beano every week. After that there was a discount book store near where I lived and if you were lucky you could occasionally find the odd trade paperback hidden away. I got a couple of Classic Star Wars, Batman: Contagion and a Legends of the Dark Knight anthology that had a story called “Sanctum” in it by Mike Mignola & Dan Raspler. I think I’d pretty much forgotten about it till I saw Lukes art, then went back and rediscovered it, the story really must have stayed with me.

Luke: Growing up in the 90s, I had a growing pile of comics that my parents picked up from car boot sales, a lot of random issues. One of my favourites was a pretty good run of Spider-man British reprints of the clone saga with Mark Bagley and a couple with John Romita JR who is my favourite Spidey artist, I had a few elseworlds DC books which are my favourite DC stories, Gotham by Gaslight, Superman Vs Terminator. And the Dark Knight Returns put me onto Frank Miller a big influence. I basically bought anything I came across had lots of superhero graphic novels. I got back into comics during college again, where I went straight for Sin City and Dave Stevens The Rocketeer, I think this started my fascination with pulp and high contrast, which led me to Mike Mignola’s work which is probably my most obvious influence.

Merrick image 2
Me: Have you been to see or would you like to see John Merrick’s remains?

Tom: Merrick’s skeleton is kept under lock and key in a small museum in the medical school at the Royal London Hospital, and as far as I know not normally on public display so I don’t think there’s really a chance to. I know they were attempting to extract DNA in an effort to full understand just exactly what it was that caused his condition, but maybe it’s time they just laid them to rest? There’s rumours that apparently Michael Jackson tried to buy the bones in the 80’s for a million dollars and was turned down by the hospital and I’ve read Johnny Depp has a life size replica of the skeleton in his office…

Me: I get a really big Hellboy vibe to preceedings, should we expect a more supernatual element to later issues?

Tom: The great thing about Merrick is the setting is open to so many different stories, the first arc is more of a classic pulp revenge story but then we can also do horror stories or classic adventure stuff or even some proto-superheroing. But yeah, if you stick around there’s definitely going to be some strange stuff going on. I think the story has much more human focus than Hellboy, Merrick has no destiny, just a constant struggle for his own survival and the very human worries that go along with being an outcast, rejection, self-doubt and naivety. The story is really about his relationship with Treves as much as anything else. I think fans of Hellboy will probably enjoy the comic and I hope they’ll feel that it very much has it’s own voice. To be honest Hellboy is pretty fun, horrible stuff just seems to happen to Merrick, it’s probably much more of a downer.

Me: Which artist inspired the look behind Merrick?

Luke: The main inspiration behind Merrick was the real Joseph Merrick, the description is basically the same deformed head and arm but we wanted him bigger and more imposing. We tried a series of heads and went with a sort of Hellboy mouthed design, I think Tom contacted me because he wanted a Mignola style heavy shadowed look so it fit with that. The costume is a mixture of classic pulp aesthetics, revolvers, belts, and pouches with some Victorian style. The mask was inspired by the Watchmen’s Hooded Justice and to finish it off diving boots for his big feet and I carried this into the design of his arm which is two shackles roped together. The Classic Universal Monster films were in the back of my mind, I wanted him to be like the missing monster. Tom- Yeah like Luke says Merrick essentially looks the way he would if you overlooked his real life disabilities and instead was tougher and more powerful like an actual elephant.

Me: If you had to sell the story with one sentence, what would you say?

Tom: Joseph Merrick: The Elephant Man fucks up the occult in a Victorian pulp tale of gin joints, black magic and carnival freaks.

Merrick image 3
Me: Can we expect more Kickstarter projects for future issues?

Tom: Yeah, I hope so. Hopefully this arc will be a success and as we release issue 4 we’ll be ready to continue the story with another crowd funded arc. As long as people are interested in reading it I’ll continue to keep doing everything I can to make it happen.

Me: Where can people get hold of Merrick – The Comic?

Tom: If you head over to our Kickstarter page you’ll find links to download either a .pdf or .cbr for free and a link to an issue page that you can also view it from. It comes in at about 48 pages, 22 pages of story plus a fantastic guest artist pin-up gallery and a couple of other extras.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ourtom/merrick-the-sensational-elephantman

Me: Hypothetical, but if Merrick had to come face to face with another Victorian curiosity, Solomon Grundy, who would win? The man with inpenetrable skin, or the man who can’t be killed?

Tom: Solomon Grundy? That guy’s gone toe to toe with Superman and Green Lantern, I reckon power-wise he’s definitely stronger and tougher and with his healing factor I don’t think Merrick would stand a chance. But then The Elephantman is a tough guy and a survivor, maybe he can keep keep Grundy occupied long enough for Treves to work out a way to incapacitate him? Treves is a clever guy, he’d find a way!

So there you go! You can follow the exploits of Merrick at their official twitter account here and don’t forget to check out their kickstarter page, here! The Kickstarter ends on 23/3/14 so get that money flowing ladies and gents! See you all next time!

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Posted on March 19th, 2014
Category: INDIE SPOTLIGHT, PREVIEWS & UPCOMING RELEASES
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WEBB OF SHADOWS #010 – MIGHTY TITAN #2

By Jason Webb

TMT #2 page 13
Whenever you discover a writer/creator that you really enjoy, you find yourself following everything they do with great passion and enthusiasm. People feel like that about the big superstar creators; Scott Snyder, Grant Morrison and Alan Moore to name a few. When you feel this way about an independent writer/creator you begin to feel more connected to the writer. I discovered this when I got chatting to Joe Martino. After a drunken New Year’s Eve chat, I ended up digitally buying all Joe’s work on Comixology. When I went into comic shops around that time, no one seemed to have even heard of Ripperman, or Shadowflame, so I began spreading the word as much as I could myself. This is where my passion for independent comics began, and it has grown stronger with every indie comic I read. When I saw that Joe had brought his next project to Kick-Starter it really was a must have for me, I may have to scrimp and save every penny I have, but I have to be a part of this project somehow.

After I read issue #1 of “The Mighty Titan” you begin to see the emotion, time and effort Joe puts into his comics, and Titan #2 is no different! It tells the story of a super powered hero, indestructible to his enemies, who contracts a very human, very intimate illness that no one would ever expect. Titan and his human alter‐ego Mark are diagnosed with stage 3 brain cancer, something that many people have to live through every minute of every day, including the creator of this book. Joe has always been very open about this book being the most personal thing he has worked on, extracting aspects of his own life, and translating them into Titan’s story.

TMT #2 page 15
The art in this book by Luca Cicchitti, has a very classic feel to it. The panels look as if they are from an awesome old-school comic; Luca has such a traditional style to his pencil work it’s very cool to look at. This book also features another amazing artist on pencils, drawing the flashback scenes of issue #2 is Cory Smith. Cory brings a very different style of art to the opening pages. These two styles fits together seamlessly, depicting the difference between the flashback scenes and the main section of the story. The two styles complement each other so well.

Inking credit once again goes to Joe’s long-time collaborator Jeff Austin. Jeff shows just how versatile he can be, working with both Luca and Cory. I know Inkers quite often have specific ways of working, or with specific artists but Jeff seems to effortlessly switch between the varied styles of both artists, and elevates their work to even greater levels.

TMT #2 page 10
The colours by Keith J Betancourt are captivating, bringing a bold, bright feeling to the big action scenes, but dark undertones when required. Keith works brilliantly with the varied art styles, and also emphasizes the feelings portrayed on the page and in the script.

Letterers never seem to be given due credit and are only really noticed if their work is seen to be poor. Adam O’Pruett does a fantastic job as the letterer, rounding off an amazing second issue collaboration on a comic making big moves in the comic book community. At the time of writing this post issue #3 is 304% funded with 28 hours still remaining!

The Mighty Titan was set to be Joe Martino’s final comic, his swan song if you like. I’m happy in the knowledge that this has now changed, and he will be bringing us more great work next year.

TMT #2 page 21
Joe clearly poured his heart and soul into the script and creation of Titan, and it absolutely jumps from every single panel of this book, he has clearly picked his collaborators very wisely. I hope this post helps people to seek out the work of Joe Martino. I have chosen not to give away any of the story in this article, I want everyone to go check out this book, and all the previous books, and share them with everyone they know who reads comics.

The one spoiler I am happy to disclose is that my letter appears in the letters section! As you can guess from the way I talk about this book and Joe in general, I’m very happy about this.

Please all go check out Joe Martino (@jgmcomics) and tell him you want to read his books.

Please let me know your thoughts, comments and even if you just want to chat to me @jaybwebb on twitter

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Posted on November 29th, 2013
Category: REVIEWS, WEBB OF SHADOWS
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